A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill (Rowland Sinclair #8)

Flat Cover_Gentill_ADL_2017Title: A Dangerous Language

Author: Sulari Gentill

Genre: Crime Fiction

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st October 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Set against the glamorous backdrop of the 1930s in Australia and overseas, A Dangerous Language is the latest in the much loved, award winning Rowland Sinclair Mysteries.

When Rowland Sinclair volunteers his services as a pilot to fly the renowned international peace advocate, Egon Kisch, between Fremantle and Melbourne, he is unaware of how hard Australia’s new Attorney-General will fight to keep the “raging reporter” off Australian soil. In this, it seems, the government is not alone, as clandestine right-wing militias reconstitute into deadly strike forces.

When a Communist agent is murdered on the steps of Parliament House, Rowland Sinclair finds himself drawn into a dangerous world of politics and assassination.

A disgraced minister, an unidentified corpse and an old flame all bring their own special bedlam. Once again Rowland Sinclair stands against the unthinkable, with an artist, a poet and a brazen sculptress by his side.

~*~

A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill marks book number thirty eight in my Australian Women Writer’s challenge for 2017, and as usual, has not failed to impress and of course, distress at times. Now in 1934, inching closer to the threat of war, Rowland is in Melbourne, purchasing a new car to replace his beloved Mercedes, that met with destruction in the almost fatal car race of the previous book, Give The Devil His Due. The trip back from Melbourne with Clyde Watson Jones and Milton Isaacs, an artist and poet whose political allegiances, especially on Milt’s account, have put Rowland in his brother’s firing line of anguish, should be uneventful. However, their sojourn through Canberra, where they are to meet Edna, Milt stumbles across the body of a Communist on the steps of Parliament House – an event that beings the tumultuous venture to get Egon Kisch into Australia, and speaking out against the Fascist tendencies that Rowland and his friends witnessed in Germany in Paving the New Road. When Rowland’s brother, Wilfred, comes onto the scene, Rowly must do whatever he can to keep his plans to help Egon away from his conservative brother – who nonetheless knows that the Fascists are dangerous. Even so, the big brother is also keen to pry his mostly apolitical brother away from the influence of those Rowland chooses to keep company with.

aww2017-badgeIn this eighth venture, politics begins to have a larger focus than in the previous seven novels, where it was present, but had less impact on the plot. In this novel, it seems nobody is safe from the clashes between each side – this is what makes the novel gripping, as it ensures that those who hurt Milt and Rowly (poor Rowland was in the wars a bit in this one again) are shrouded in mystery. As always, I enjoy the Rowland Sinclair novels, and this one was two years in the waiting, and rightly so in the end, because it captured the political turbulence and environment of the 1930s in a way that is accessible to those just discovering it, and highlighting some aspects and characters that are perhaps less well-known than others during this time.

Fiction often offers parallels to history or contemporary times, and it is not hard to see BW_Author_Photo_Gentill_2016how the dangerous language that Rowland and his friends opposed in 1934 from Fascists and the conservatives of the time is repeating itself today. The feelings of powerlessness that the ordinary people had against those in politics and with influence that can encourage this dangerous language Rowland dislikes are felt through Milt and Clyde throughout the novel, and in particular Clyde during a boat cruise from Fremantle to Melbourne, where they must ensure Egon gets to Melbourne safely, and in Traveller’s Class, Rowland is able to get Egon as far as possible on his trip. The social class contrast between Rowland and his friends appears even more so in this book, where class and politics have become crucial to the evolution of the plot and characters at the stage of the series. The history of this turbulent period is woven into the plot and is sometimes the motive behind the crime, such as in A Dangerous Language. I also enjoy the inclusion of historical figures and people throughout that had an impact on history – this gives the stories an authenticity to them that is both exciting and informative at the same time.

As always, Rowland takes a few hits from people trying to cover up their crime, or another secret, and his brother Wilfred, battle-weary by now from saving the family name, is still faithful to Rowland, if a bit pompous at times. I do feel for Rowly when Wilfred loses his temper, as so often happens when Rowland stumbles into something he didn’t intend to. As polar opposites, Sulari has created exceptional characters in the Sinclair family, and their friends, including the heartbreak that Rowland’s own mother doesn’t recognise him, but sees him as his long-dead brother, Aubrey, an ongoing theme throughout the series that Rowland takes in his stride, and that Sulari has written exceptionally well. The Rowland Sinclair series is one that gets better with each subsequent mystery, and the uniquely Australian settings are in themselves a character – from Woodlands estate in Sydney, to the family property at Yass, and each place Rowland and his friends visit. They are often the unwilling detectives at first, dedicated to their art and friendship, but also dedicated to speaking out when and where they need to, to ensure that the dangerous language that Egon Kisch is trying to warn against does not infect the way of life that many in Australia enjoy. Once they are involved in the crime, it seems they cannot help themselves, and Rowland, as an honourable person, is always at hand to warn Colin Delaney of new information they stumble across.

An excellent addition to this series, and I look forward to the next one, which will hopefully be out soon!

Buy the new Rowland Sinclair and the rest of the books in the series here:

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Some of my Favourite Australian Authors

to-love-a-sunburnt-country

Today is Australia Day, and I usually spend it quietly with books, often by an Australian author such as Kate Forsyth, Sulari Gentill, Anita Heiss,  or Jackie French. Many of the Australian authors I enjoy are women authors, and their books genre blend and tell the stories of characters who may be forgotten or silenced, a-waltz-for-matildathe invisible stories that history may have forgotten, such as Jackie French’s Matilda Saga, which begins in 1894 in book one, and by book seven, is in the 1970s. It deals with the silenced voices I mentioned before – the women and children left out of the record, or simply associated with a husband’s name, or the fictional daughter of the swaggie of Waltzing Matilda, whose imagined existence and therefore imagined erasure from the song by Banjo Paterson brings Matilda O’Halloran of the Matilda Saga to life.

the-girl-from-snowy-riverOver the course of seventy years, the Matilda Saga tells the story of women’s rights, of wars – The Boer War, World War One, World War Two and Vietnam by book five The Ghost by the Billabong, which I am currently reading, those left behind on the home front, and the road-to-gundagaiinnocents whose lives are turned upside down. It tells of the inter-war period between World War One and The Great Depression, and how orphaned teenagers like Flinty McAlpine raised families, after injuring her back, and how Blue escaped a prison-like home to find her family, and how Nancy went to Malaya to get her sister-in-law home, and found herself trapped in a prisoner of war camp by the Japanese on a small island off Malaya. The most recent books focus on Jed Kelly, and as I’ve just started book five, I’m still getting to know her and her story, but she comes to Drinkwater – Matilda’s property – and the characters that link all the books together – to find out who her great-grandfather is. Jackie French weaves history and imagination together to create this world and those who worked behind the scenes and brings the forgotten stories to light – the women, the orphans, the Indigenous Australians whose voices are clear in these books. Each book can be read alone, however, reading them in order has helped me see all the connections and links.rowly-7

the beasts gardenAnother Australian author I enjoy is Kate Forsyth. Her historical fiction stories also place the female character in the centre. My favourite is The Beast’s Garden, set in World War Two Germany, where Ava works to subvert Nazi power, whilst married to a Nazi, one whom she loves but at the same time fears, unsure of what he will do should he find out about her Jewish friends and their resistance, or her work against the Nazis. The power of a subversive voice not often heard in literature is what gave The Beast’s Garden it’s heart and power: we saw the impact of the Nazi regime through Ava’s eyes. What it did to her family, her friends, and what having a Spanish mother did to her, how it affected her as she lived with typically Aryan sisters. Even though this doesn’t tell the story of an Australian character, it is definitely one of my favourites.

I have only read one Anita Heiss book so far, and that was Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms, set in World War Two and told by an Indigenous narrator, Mary, who comes to care for the Japanese Prisoner of War hebarbed-wire-and-cherry-blossoms-9781925184846_lg.jpgr family is hiding. The book delves introwly-1o various prejudices in the community at the time of war, and how they felt towards each other. As I read this, I had the question in the back of my mind: Did societal expectations drive the behaviour of some? The book dealt with the history nicely, and again, used voices not often heard in the history books to tell those experiences – perhaps something the history books need more of to have a rounded understanding of the war as a whole, even on the home front. Using silenced voices like Heiss, Forsyth and French have done makes the story more powerful, gives it more impact.
For a final Australian author I enjoy, I turn to Sulari Gentill, author of the Rowland Sinclair series. Rowland isn’t a silenced voice, but his adventures in crime solving, and his journeys to England, Nazi Germany , and his time between Sydney and Yass, artist Rowland Sinclair and his friends, fellow painter, Clyde, the sculptress, Edna, and Milt, the communist, Jewish poet, whose lines are all plagiarised from the well known poets, comprise a crime solving team that come to assist the police rowly-4throughout the series. Poor Rowly has been shot, stabbed, beaten, and in a car accident, and has come through it all. He is an Australian gentleman. It is another fabulous series by a great Australian author.

Reading in 2017: My Goals

With 2016 coming to an end, I have started thinking about my wrap up post of the books I have read, and the challenge I participated in – a post I will only write once I know my challenge results. This will be included in a 2016 wrap up post of what I have read, how many books I read, and hopefully, a list of the top five I read, though that might be a bit of a challenge, having read so many good books this year.

Next year, I am aiming to read as much as I did this year, or perhaps more, and hopefully, do more reviews, more blog posts and more about reading, authors, and other posts that come to mind. I missed out on a few significant literary anniversaries this year, so I plan to keep on top of that. I plan to try and review other books as well as what I am sent by publishers – the beauty there is I can review older books as well, and hopefully introduce these to new readers. This year my Goodreads goal was 45 books – so far I have surpassed that by at least 20, including re-reads of a few favourites, but more on that in my yearly wrap up post.

2017 is my first year without studies. I will be reading more as a result, probably, and writing more. More blog posts, definitely, in the categories mentioned above. I hope to read some more non-fiction, in particular a book I picked up about pre 1788 Australia, pre-colonialism. We need books like this to do away with common misconceptions taught within our history classes, to discover the history we never get to learn in school – or even university in my case.

I am eagerly awaiting the release of a few books, some of which I hope to receive review copies for, but will hopefully purchase them if I don’t:

Frogkisser! By Garth Nix, towards the end of February

Draekora by Lynette Noni on the first of April (I may be receiving a review copy of this book from Pantera Press)

A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill – The 8th Rowland Sinclair novel

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

I am sure there are others, however, those are my top four and I eagerly await their release, especially the Pantera Press ones to find out what happens to Rowly and his friends, but also to Alex, Jordan, Bear and D.C. after that heart stopping cliffhanger in Raelia! At some stage, I may need to re-read Arkanae and Raelia before reading Draekora!

Apart from that, I will be reading any review copies I am sent, and trying to read all my other books. There are so many I need to read.

Looking foward to the coming year of reading, and will hopefully be able to set my challenges if any, early in the New Year.

The Book Muse

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Give the Devil His Due by Sulari Gentill.

rowly-7Title: Give The Devil His Due (Rowland Sinclair #7)
Author: Sulari Gentill
Publisher: Pantera Press
Category: Historical Fiction/Crime
Pages: 384
Available formats: Print and ebook
Publication Date: 1/11/15
RRP: AU$29.99
Synopsis: The 7th book in the award-winning Australian historical crime fiction Rowland Sinclair Mystery Series
When Rowland Sinclair is invited to take his yellow Mercedes onto the Maroubra Speedway, renamed the Killer Track for the lives it has claimed, he agrees without caution or reserve.

But then people start to die.

The body of a journalist covering the race is found in a House of Horrors, an English blueblood with Blackshirt affiliations is killed on the race track. and it seems that someone has Rowland in their sights.

A strange young reporter preoccupied with black magic, a mysterious vagabond, an up-and-coming actor by the name of Flynn, and ruthless bookmakers all add mayhem to the mix.

With danger presenting at every turn, and the brakes long since disengaged, Rowland Sinclair hurtles towards disaster with an artist, a poet and brazen sculptress along for the ride.

~*~

Our latest adventure with Rowland picks up soon after the events of A Murder Unmentioned, which unravelled the mystery of the death of Henry Sinclair, Rowly’s father. Give The Devil His Due has Rowly preparing for the charity race at the Killer Track, the Maroubra Speedway. At the same time, he is still haunted by what he saw and went through in Germany, in Paving the New Road. The journey to the race and eventual exhibition of his paintings of Nazi Germany is fraught with disaster. First, Rowly must deal with Crispin White, a journalist determined to make more of Rowly’s association with Milt, the Communist, his father’s death, and his time in Germany, rather than report on the race.
Once White’s body is found at Magdalene’s House of the Macabre, Rowly and his friends are plunged into a world of black magic, where they encounter Rosaleen Norton, the future Witch of King’s Cross, whose stories about the macabre are far more interesting to her than her take over of the article on Rowly and his racing team, which includes Errol Flynn. With each step, Rowly and his crew find themselves in more danger, leading up to a disastrous event that had my heart racing as I read it.
One of my favourite things about this and the other Rowland Sinclair books, is the way Sulari weaves history and historical figures through the narrative, and their interaction with Rowland. Just like the other books, Give The Devil His Due does not fail to deliver on mystery, history and laughs. Yet it is the change in Rowland since book four that has had a significant impact on the narrative – his feelings of helplessness at not being able to stop what happened in Germany, and at not being able to make people see what is going on there are powerful. The continuation of them in book seven hint at what is to come, and hint at what we, as the readers, know happens in the lead up to World War Two, and the realisation of the truth.
When one of Rowly’s teammates for the race is killed in a freak accident during a training session, threats come thick and fast to Rowly from the victim’s sister, and the discovery of the word “Eternity” written throughout Sydney, and an encounter with Arthur Stace, lead to a kidnapping, and the series of events that unravels the true killer, it is Rowly and his friends, together with Detective Delaney, who unmask them.
Give the Devil His Due was a thoroughly enjoyable installment of the Rowland Sinclair series, and one that had me on edge at certain moments, just as any good Rowly story does.

A Murder Unmentioned by Sulari Gentill

rowly-6Book Title: A Murder Unmentioned (Rowland Sinclair, #6)

Author: Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Pantera Press

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Release Date: November 1st, 2014

Book Synopsis: The black sheep of a wealthy grazier dynasty, gentleman artist Rowland Sinclair often takes matters into his own hands. When the matter is murder, there are consequences.

For nearly fourteen years, Rowland has tried to forget, but now the past has returned.

A newly-discovered gun casts light on a family secret long kept… a murder the Sinclairs would prefer stayed unsolved.

As old wounds tear open, the dogged loyalty of Rowland’s inappropriate companions is all that stands between him and the consequences of a brutal murder… one he simply failed to mention.

~*~

Once again, Rowland Sinclair did not fail to hold my attention, all other books being set aside as the mystery of who killed Henry Sinclair, Rowland’s father, when our hero was just a teenager. The mystery arises when Edna Walling, a gardener engaged by Wilfred’s wife Kate, to landscape the surrounds of Oaklea. The gun used in the murder of Henry Sinclair is discovered, prompting a cousin, Arthur Sinclair, and a former employee, Charlie Hayden, to come out to Yass to influence the investigation in their favour.

Lucy Bennett is involved again, adamant that she will marry Rowland, even though her father has determined he is inappropriate for her. I find Lucy’s stubborn determination that Rowland has indeed professed his adoration and love for her, and extending from that, that he has somehow proposed to her in his many attempts to gently discourage her throughout the series both funny and, in terms of her character, annoying. Lucy’s involvement in this book, however, is more significant. Having failed at nabbing Rowly, she fixes her sights on Arthur Sinclair, and the plot thickens. Soon, another murder has the police set their sights on Rowland, and the family becomes embroiled in danger and mystery to unravel what really happened on the night Rowland and Wilfred’s father died.

Always by his side, Rowly’s companions, Edna, Milt and Clyde are ready to help discover the truth. Their loyalty is recognised by Wilfred in this book, and there is a major turning point in the relationship between the brothers. We finally find out what happened to Rowland in his father’s study and library as a child. We see a gentler side to Wilfred as he does everything he can to help his brother but also his brother’s friends. I found myself liking Wilfred very much in the final pages, and his defence of his brother and family.

Sulari Gentill has captured the essence of the period in all six books, set against the backdrop of the Depression, and now, the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany, to which Rowly and his friends were witness to in Paving the New Road. The line up of likely suspects in this book works very effectively when the true killer is revealed, and the mystery, somewhat, at least amongst brothers and friends, solved. This added layer of intrigue and where people were and who they were with at the time of the murder just adds yet another aspect to the book that kept me reading.

I cannot say which Rowland Sinclair book thus far is my favourite – they are all wonderful and I am sad that I now have to wait until later this year for book seven. Though they are quick reads, they are enjoyable and they do take me away from other reading – that I can finish whilst waiting for my next sojourn with Rowly.

Gentlemen Formerly Dressed by Sulari Gentill

rowly-5

Author: Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Pantera Press

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Release Date: November 1st, 2013

Book Synopsis: After narrowly escaping Nazi terror, Rowland Sinclair and his companions land in London, believing they are safe.

But they are wrong.

A bizarre murder plunges the hapless Australians into a queer world of British aristocracy, Fascist Blackshirts, illicit love, scandal and spies.

A world where gentlemen are not always what they are dressed up to be.

~*~

I was delighted to be able to leap headfirst into another adventure with Rowland. Edna, Clyde and Milt in London, along with his brother, Wilfred, sister-in-law, Kate and nephews, Ewan and Ernest. Staying at Claridge’s after escaping Fascist Germany, Rowly and his friends are soon privy to the murder of a fellow guest, Lord Pierrepont is murdered, and found in stockings and a women’s nightie – in rather scandalous circumstances that lead to people related to him and the police trying to cover things up. Sulari does a fabulous job of revealing clues to the reader just as the characters find them. The journey to Madame Tussaud’s in London is seemingly innocent enough – Rowly and his friends are in the company of his nephew, Ernest. But the discovery here of a wax head of Pierrepont, and the sculptor hoisting it off onto them to deliver it to Euphemia Thistlethwaite leads the reader into a series of humour-filled interactions with the head in a hat box, and then resting on a desk in the suite Rowland and his friends are staying in.

My favourite line in relation to the head came towards the end of the novel, after a second failed attempt to return it to Lord Harcourt and the family: “Rowland nodded. He had been preoccupied and now he’d lost Pierrepont’s head.” It had the feeling or something morbid yet as the head was wax, quite amusing. The aftermath of Rowly losing the head is equally enjoyable to read and experience, in particular, Wilfred’s reaction to the whole situation of why they had a wax head of a dead man in their rooms.

Though Wilfred throughout the novels is disapproving of Rowly’s friends and maybe a little hard on him, he does not just let anyone get away with trying to harm his family. I found this coming through much more since Paving the New Road, following Rowly’s encounters with the Nazi Stormtroopers. The continuity and growth that readers get to experience with this relationship makes the novels well worth the read.

Sulari has again seamlessly and delightfully incorporated real-world figures such as Winston Churchill, H.G. Wells and Stanley Melbourne Bruce into the narrative, as figures for Rowland and his comrades to interact with. For me as a reader, this brings even more authenticity to the world she is creating and meandering in. I hope we get to see more of their reactions to what is going on in Germany and the outcomes of this.

The Rowland Sinclair Mysteries are one of my favourite crime series, because they also incorporate real world history and figures. It feels genuine because of these characteristics, and I am looking forward to seeing what is in store for Rowly in the future.

Five Years of Rowland Sinclair

rowly-1Five years ago, on the first of June, Rowland Sinclair and his artist compatriots were released from the grey cells and imagination of Sulari Gentill into the literary world, with the help of the fantastic team at Pantera Press. A 1930s gentleman of means, living in a family estate in Woollahra, with his friends Elias Isaacs, known as Milt, a Communist and a Jew and a poet, Clyde Watson Jones, a country boy and painter, and Edna Higgins, the sculptress. My personal journey began with book two, and going back to read them in order has brought a new light to the series. At the time of writing this post, I am up to book five, Gentlemen Formally Dressed, taking place fairly soon after Paving the New Road, and continuing with the themes that have been trickling throughout the books, moving through political dissent in Australia towards that in Germany and what is to come.

The reader has an upper hand though, in knowing the history of the period, if they do, or at least knowing the major events that follow in the decades after The First World War that our fine Rowly finds himself caught up in, often by accidental association or by being in the wrong place, at the wrong, or perhaps sometimes, the right time. Rowland’s journeys are plagued by murder and intrigue, false accusations and colourful characters – both fictional and historical, who bring a colour to the stories and situate them firmly in the
rowly-21930s and the turmoil of the period.

Rowland is introduced in A Few Right Thinking Men, set against the backdrop of the conflict of the Old Guard and the New Guard, leading to Francis De Groot stealing the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from Premier Lang. Culminating in Rowly and his friends needing to escape, they take a tour of the Continent, their return journey recounted in A Decline in Prophets, where several bodies drop to cover up the crimes of a church leader. Book Three, Miles Off Course, has the backdrop of Old and New Guard, rowly-3Communism and the Depression against Rowland’s brother insisting he search their sheep farming property for the head station hand, leading to a conspiracy of sheep theft. It is with Paving the New Road that the series heads to Nazi Germany, and Rowland is exposed to the dangers of the politics of Fascism and what it could have meant for Australia, had Eric Campbell been successful in transplanting the ideas of Hitler to our shores. Rowland’s dangerous and near-death encounters lead into book rowly-4five, Gentlemen Formerly Dressed, and what I see as a shift in Rowly and Wilfred’s relationship – Wilfred seems to come to a better understanding of his brother. I am looking forward to see what books six, A Murder Unmentioned, and book seven bring to the series after I finish Gentlemen Formerly Dressed.

Within each book, Sulari has created a world that is immersive, and delivers the history of the period in an accessible way, in arowly-5 fun way, in comparison to some history books or school textbooks. They are one of my favourite series of historical fiction novels, mingled with crime, intrigue and Rowly’s affection for Edna, which, so far, has not been reciprocated. It is the combination of the characters and plots that pull the reader headfirst into the series, and I hope, makes them never want to end their
association with Rowland.